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15 Jun 2014

China’s Growing Cities

The economic expansion of China continues to change the landscape, as the nation's cities rise up and stretch out at breathtaking speed. The growth of China's cities is the most concrete example of just how fast the nation is changing, with traditional centres booming and new urban environments developed to meet the needs of the growing population. With China's new tallest building adding a new floor every 96 hours, China's growth is faster now than ever before.

Shenzhen’s Ping An Finance Center is about to become the tallest building in China and the second-tallest in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Currently at 660 metres, a new floor is added to the 115-storey building every four days according to a report from DesignBoom. This speed of progression is astounding and goes a long way to illustrate just how fast China is growing relative to other booming economies. Both Burj Khalifa and One World Trade in the United States progressed at a rate of one new floor every seven days, a pedestrian speed in comparison.

While very impressive, the Ping An Finance Center is just one example of China's growing skyline. A separate project, Sky City One, aims to be the world's tallest building when it is completed in the Chinese city of Changsha next year. The Broad Sustainable Building Corporation aims to build the 150-storey building in as little as 90 days using prefabricated parts. In comparison, the Burj Khalifa took eight years to build and the One World Trade took seven. Having already proved their technology by building a 30-storey structure in fifteen days back in 2012, this is no pie in the sky dream.

China's growing cities are a direct result of the nation's economic boom, with GDP growth reaching an average of 10 percent annually following market reforms in 1978. While there has been significant slowdown in recent years, the economic expansion of China has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty and created the second largest economy in the world. The resources needed for this unprecedented level of urban growth are astounding, with China now consuming 53 percent of the world's cement, 48 percent of the world's iron ore, and 47 percent of the world's coal.

According to a report from Business Insider, China will add more city-dwellers between 2009 and 2030 than the entire population of the United States. In other amazing facts, China will build enough skyscrapers to fill 10 New York-sized cities by 2025, with cities such as Changsha, Chongqing, Fuyang, and Haikou growing at rapid rates to accommodate the ever-expanding population. There are a number of problems associated with such rapid growth, with ghost cities perhaps the most obvious example.

In China right now, there are roughly 64 million vacant homes and countless under-utilised industrial developments. For example, the world's biggest shopping mall can be found in China, a structure which remains 99 percent empty despite its completion in 2005. In fact, there are entire empty cities in many parts of China, a phenomenon so common they have been given their own name - ghost cities. The city of Ordos is the biggest and most well known example, a futuristic metropolis that is only 2 percent occupied as China's appetite for growth fails to align with the influx of urban dwellers in some areas.

The unprecedented speed of China's growth is causing concern in some quarters, with a China-collapse scenario seen as inevitable by some analysts. While no-one knows how likely this pessimistic scenario is, however, one thing is clear - cities will continue to rise faster than ever before as the greatest urbanisation story the world has ever seen unfolds before our eyes.